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  1. By now it's no secret to most people here that after the back-to-back wipeouts that were Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06, Sonic Team decided to burn off a lot of what had characterized the Adventure era, with some of the Classic era being caught in the crossfire. While they would continue to experiment with ways to pad out the games--an unfortunate necessity when your character moves so much faster than most others--and some things, like more in-depth combat, stuck around a bit longer, in many other aspects, like Eggman being a genuinely scary threat and other characters than Sonic being playable in the main games, the Adventure era was dead. Many have alleged that Sonic Forces was Sonic Team attempting to return to the Adventure formula, and I say "alleged" because none have provided any links to them saying that was the case. Unless someone makes an argument, I'm going to assume they're trying to make sense of it coming out shortly after fans pleaded for another Adventure-like game; as if when some people see two dots they are tempted to draw lines between them. Whatever is the case, it clearly did not end up like another Adventure game. But instead of debating over whether Sonic Team was trying to return to that style of game, let's imagine an alternate timeline wherein they never left. Let's add the assumption that Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 were still in that timeline more-or-less the same games as in this one, with the possible exception of 06 being better enough that it didn't scare them away from the formula. I think this would have given SEGA a lot more to work with by the time they decided to do Sonic Forces, and as a result, it, too, would have turned out much better. To explain why, I think it's important to consider why Forces was not good, and while the game does have some mechanical issues, it's bigger problems are conceptual. Not that the idea of Robotnik conquering the world and Sonic joining a resistance against him is innately bad; it was well-received by many fans when it was used as the premise of a cartoon and it's also been fairly well-received when revived by Ian Flynn in the IDW series. But the decision to make this another boost formula game made Sonic Team unwilling to include gameplay that fit that plot. For starters, what do you expect from a plot about freedom fighters taking on a dictator with so much more military power than they have? Lots of fighting, and fighting so intense that every victory the rebels get feels like it was only just achieved, maybe at great cost. But because Sonic Team didn't want to compromise the breezy integrity of the Boost games, what we got was just more instances of Modern Sonic effortlessly boosting his way through lines of enemies, and even when you're not him, that same philosophy of utterly weak enemies still applies with the rookie's flamethrower or Classic Sonic's rolling. This gameplay isn't just inappropriate for the vibe the scenario warranted; it's actually a gaping plothole that a genius smart enough to build an army of robots and then command them to conquer the world just clusters them close together to make it easier to take down a whole bunch at once. If Eggman had it all his own way he would have managed to build robots that don't go down in one hit, but once he learned they did, he at least should have tried to compensate by spreading them out so while their opponents are destroying one, another is shooting them from a safer position. But no; we got utter pushovers of mooks and a worthless brigade of Death Egg Robots that do nothing but dance around in the background. But in the Adventure era, at least post-Dreamcast, Sonic Team wasn't afraid to incorporate more involved combat. Enemies had actual lifebars, they actually impeded the players, forcing them to fight, and in some cases defeating enemies was specifically the goal. As it happens, the impetus for me making this thread was considering how pathetically out-of-it Sonic Team would have to be to want to make another Sonic game reminiscent of Shadow the Hedgehog instead of finally letting Tails and Knuckles back in as playable characters, but on thinking that, it dawned on me that even more pathetic is how Shadow the Hedgehog did it so much better. Not that Shadow did it great, by any means. I consider its combat loads better than Sonic Heroes for its relative lack of moves that throw you off a cliff alone, but still, task a company with incorporating guns into a series whose first game actually tried and rejected projectiles since they would get in the way of speed-centric gameplay, and it's no surprise that the results would leave something to be desired. The way they structured the game also didn't often let the gunplay be as fun as might have been, and that's largely because of how they had to fit into the framework of multiple missions and a morality system often based on whom you choose to attack. So we got a lot of dull search-and-destroy missions where finding enemies was usually more difficult than fighting them once found, whereas what makes better gun games fun is having almost overwhelming enemies come to you and tasking you with just surviving. Then of course, there was the absurdity of seeing Shadow use guns; it felt like it didn't fit for the supposed Ultimate Lifeform (or at least one of several) who already had Chaos Sphere to pick up guns; as if the only reason he was doing it was because guns were "cool" at the time. However, perhaps the missing ingredient was guerilla warfare all along. Let's work backwards from last point by putting the Rookie from Sonic Forces in the role Shadow had. If Shadow using guns inevitably looks forced because he's already an innately powerful living weapon, with someone who is just a random, physically unremarkable civie who was forced into a conflict against a far more powerful enemy, picking up a gun and blazing away for dear life makes complete sense. A plot about guerilla warfare is also that Goldilocks zone where the combination of running fast and wielding guns can form good gameplay, because instead of dull search-and-destroy missions you could get exciting hit-and-run missions. Instead of the difficulty being from finding where the Hell what you're supposed to destroy even is, you could be told exactly where but then be tasked with weaving/shooting your way through the many enemies on the way, and instead of winning the moment you destroy your target, you could also be required to get back out alive, which would likely entail more running and more gunning. Now let's go into another aspect of the Adventure era, and unlike the more involved combat, this one was there for its entirety: Multiple playable characters. The reason the "Freedom Fighters" plot worked so much better in animated and pictorial panel (often incorrectly called "comic") form is it could heavily involve characters other than Sonic. If the focus was only ever on Sonic doing his thing running through and past things at high speed, you'd never really develop an empathy for anyone else, nor an appreciation for how much threat Robotnik's goons posed, but by giving more of the Freedom Fighters fleshed-out personalities, and abilities that were useful in their own ways, you came to appreciate them as a team who were all in this together. Even the ones who seemed mostly useless at least gave you some appreciation for what the stronger ones had to protect. At the time DIC explored that concept and then Archie continued it, the Sonic games weren't really in the right shape to match it; they still focused on playable characters who were built to go fast, and as such it would be hard to include the likes of Bunny and Sally in them; let alone what Rotor could possibly have done. But Sonic Adventure completely changed this. Suddenly, it was completely viable to have other playable characters with other specialties, like being strong, wielding firearms, tracking things down and building machines. It didn't always work and sometimes whether or not it "worked" depended on how well it fit in with what people expected a Sonic game to be. When Sonic is so marketed around being fast that he'll visibly get impatient if made to stand still, putting in a character like Big the Cat will obviously breed resentment. On the other hand, other characters can seem gratuitous when you put them in a game like Sonic Heroes. While it's not automatically worse from their being in, that playing all of them through all of the same levels was required to beat the game gave them an association with monotony. Also, given that SH was marked as being more like Classic Sonic, except in 3D and with team play, they could have conveyed the entire gameplay formula of that game with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, since they all had precedent for being fast, whereas while making Big the Cat run fast definitely makes him more fun, it also is so absurd that it begs the question of why he is even in the game. But had they not rejected all of the other playable characters and then approached Forces with the willingness to include them, they actually would be meeting the expectations that plot set. If they followed through with that plot's implications and made enemies tougher, we've already explained why the Rookie would be more fun, but let's look at another possibility that fits because the enemies are mostly robots: Sally Acorn or at least a character who could hack like her. On the assumption that we'd have already increased the game's emphasis on combat and instead of just speed, what if a character's gameplay involved hacking into a robot and remote-controlling it? We've seen this concept explored with positive results in the likes of Space Station Silicon Valley and Super Mario Odyssey, so it could be equally neat here. So would that make our alternate universe version of Sonic Forces everyone's cup of tea? Of course not. But if we've learned any harsh lesson over three decades of Sonic, it's that nothing involving Sonic is going to be everyone's cup of tea. Alas, this is because what from the get-go has always been Sonic's most exciting aspect, its speed, also makes it untenable to make a feature-length game unless some means of padding the experience out was used, and Sonic Team explored many means and many have their fans but also their haters. Alas, many in society also just flat-out hate Sonic, and sometimes this isn't even because they dislike Sonic's gameplay but just because hating Sonic is "cool", or at least it was until the movies became huge hits. So I say it's high time Sonic Team stops trying to make that elusive game that absolutely nobody will hate, because that's impossible, except maybe if the game is so unremarkable that nobody can muster so strong an emotion as hate. Perhaps lately, that has been exactly SEGA's actual strategy; keep Sonic running on fumes with releases that are never ambitious enough to crash and burn as spectacularly as the last few Adventure games did. But dammit, if only they just fixed that formula instead of replacing it, I maintain that Sonic Forces could have been something really special.
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